I see Mona Charen is on about one of my favorite examples of ineffectual government programs- Head Start. Liberals love Head Start and they like to trot it out in their For The Children™ argument that Rethuglians hate kids, and want poor kids to fail.

Charen quotes E.J. Dionne, who demonstrates this tactic nicely:

Begin with the outrageous $1.1 billion, 15 percent cut from Head Start, a program that offers preschool education to roughly 965,000 poor children. According to the Center for Law and Public Policy, this would knock 218,000 kids out of Head Start and force 16,000 classrooms to close. That is an excellent way to lose the future, as Obama ought to be saying. What could be a better use of public money than helping our poorest children early in life so they might achieve more in school, and later?

If $1.1 billion is a 15% cut, how much do we waste on this useless endeavor?

As any number of studies have demonstrated over the years, the effects of Head Start are modest to nugatory. Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom chronicled the failure in No Excuses. One study found that Head Start students were slightly more likely to be immunized than others — a good thing of course, but a) not primarily what the program was sold as, and b) achievable far more cheaply through other programs like Medicaid. A 1969 study found that any gains participants displayed faded away in the early grades. By third grade, Head Start graduates were indistinguishable from their non-participating classmates.

Oh, but certainly the program’s efficacy has improved since then! Oh, but certainly not.

A just-released study by the Department of Health and Human Services delivers incredibly harsh news about Head Start. A large, nationwide survey of 4,600 preschoolers who were randomly assigned to either Head Start (experimental group) or no program (control group) were studied on 114 different measures ranging from academic skills to social/emotional development to health status. The study found no statistically relevant effects from the Head Start program by the end of first grade.

Obama boosted funding for Head Start from $6.8 billion to $9.2 billion in 2009. WTG!

E.J. Dionne:

And for those who say that Head Start is not as good as it should be, the administration announced plans in September to require lower-performing Head Start programs to compete against other entities for continued funding. Isn’t this the sort of competition conservatives say they’re for?

Given what science has shown about the importance of a child’s first years, we need better and broader early childhood programs. Slashing them can only cause harm – to parents, to children and to the country.

It isn’t the government’s job to insure that children are prepared to learn. It’s a PARENT’s job. The abdication of parental responsibility that begins in pre-school is only going to get worse as the years go on. Using Dionne’s logic, the government should start “educating” the children of the poor as soon as they can start crawling. He’s says as much in advocating “broader early childhood programs.” I shudder to think what he’d consider.

Reading to your kids is FREE.

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5 Comments on “KILL IT”

  1. MJ Says:

    FYI: I’ve visited about 50 different HS locations in Florida.

    If you ever want to hear about it, let me know.

  2. Car in Says:

    By all means, MJ. Let’s hear it.

  3. Car in Says:

    Advocates, in defense of the cost, point out that it costs as much as prison, as if putting your child in head start will keep them out of prison.

    So, can someone explain to me that in 1960, the incarceration rates were steady (since the 30’s) of around 100 per 100,000 of the population, and now it’s soared to over 700 per 100,000?

    I blame head start.

  4. Hotspur Says:

    Why does she do the age old bullshit conservative thing and refer to Dione as a “fine man”?

    He’s an asshole.

  5. Car in Says:

    Yea, I don’t know why she does that. Prolly ’cause they’re all friends.

    I don’t know how she could be. I can only take so much stupid from a person.

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